I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it again. There's nothing that goes better with pork than apples except that now I've got to make one small addition - creamed leeks.
Last night's dinner hit all the right tasty notes with lovely center cut pork loin chops soaked in a flavorful brine made of apple cider kissed with allspice and bay. Grilled then topped with wedges of Granny Smith apples that were caramelized and hit with a jigger of Apple Jack brandy, the whole thing was centered on a puddle of creamy sauteed leeks.
Another autumn gift from the garden, in my mind leeks are one of the forgotton vegetables. Often used as a flavor booster in stock or soup, this version is simply sauteed in a little butter and finished with salt, pepper and heavy cream. Mild but flavorful, they make a fabulous side dish with meat or poultry.
Dinner was delicious I promise you. The pork was tender and juicy with a subtle apple flavor - perfectly grilled thanks to the big guy. The apples and leeks can be prepared in advance, refrigerated and reheated which makes this a fabulous dish for entertaining - or not whatever the case may be.
Before I let you go today - Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends in Canada. Oh that we were all together enjoying a day in the kitchen, followed by a dinner of epic proportions. I'm homesick (still), although the big guy maintains this ring I wear means I am home. True but nevertheless, I miss you all very much and even more on holidays.
For my American friends, yes we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October although most people have their Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. It's a celebration to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and all good things throughout the year. The history of Canadian Thanksgiving goes way back to 1578 when British explorer Martin Frobisher returned safely from a search for the Northwest Passage and held a celebration in Newfoundland to give thanks for his safe journey. In addition in 1604 when French settlers arrived in Canada with Samuel de Champlain they held feasts to give thanks and shared their good fortune with First Nation's people.
What it means is that today there's the scent of turkey coming from almost every one of the 6,708,259 homes coast to coast (3,000 miles as the crow flies from the Atlantic to the Pacific) in the second largest nation on Earth - all 4 million square miles. That's an awful lot of turkey, isn't it?
Cider Brined Pork Chops with Apples & Creamed Leeks (adapted from Bon Appetit)
2 cups apple cider
1-1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
3 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
2 – 10 ounce center cut boneless pork chops
Place cider, salt, allspice and bay leaf in a small pot. Bring to a boil stirring constantly to dissolve salt. Cool to room temperature. Tie pork chops with string so they hold their shape. Place chops and cooled brine in a zip bag. Seal and place in refrigerator for a minimum 8 hours, or overnight. Flip bag over from time to time.
2 large Granny Smith Apples
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons apple cider
3 Tablespoons apple jack brandy or Calvados
Peel, core and cut each apple into 8 wedges. In a small skillet, melt butter. Add apples and cook until slightly soft. Add sugar and sauté until apples are golden brown and sugar has caramelized. Add chicken stock, apple cider and apple brandy and reduce liquid until it is slightly thickened. Set aside.
3 large leeks – white and pale green parts only
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and coarse ground black pepper
Remove outer layer of leeks, slice in half lengthwise and carefully wash to remove sand and grit. Slice crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. Melt butter over medium low heat in sauté pan and add leeks. Toss to combine with butter. Cover and cook until transparent – approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium and add cream. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper. Keep warm.
To cook pork – heat grill pan over medium heat. Drain pork and rinse under cold water. Pat dry. Brush with olive oil and grill to desired doneness – about 6 to 7 minutes per side for medium (1.75 inch thick chop). Let pork rest for 5 minutes. Plate with leeks on the bottom, then pork topped with apples. Serves 2 – may be doubled. Download Cider Brined Pork Chops with Creamed Leeks and Apples